On the Subject of Schedule and Budget Overruns



30 May 2022

Ref: Smith, K. F. (2022).  Schedule Slippages, Root Causes & Recommended Remedies, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue V, May. Online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/pmwj117-May2022-Smith-schedule-slippages-root-causes-remedies.pdf

To the Editor, PM World Journal

I read the advisory article ”Schedule Slippages, Root Causes & Recommended Remedies” by Dr. Kenneth Smith with interest in the May edition of PW World Journal. Based on my experience, there is one additional root cause that is rarely, if ever, mentioned, and this is: the sponsor-project manager relationship.

For example, I was asked to audit a project that was significantly over time and over budget. A senior manager asked me the question that is addressed in the article:  “why, despite all of our training and investment in project management, does this keep happening?”

As he was expecting a detailed analysis of procedural and technical shortcomings in his organization, he was nonplussed when I simply said: “It is because you insist on being lied to!”

To explain: the two main factors are a) project managers tend to assume that it their duty to ensure that the project gets approved and b) the sponsor frequently sets unrealistic targets for the time and cost required. Project managers well may start off by using the correct estimating tools to arrive at an initial set of figures, but, even before presenting these numbers to the sponsor, they frequently pare them down in order to make the numbers more “acceptable”.

As an example, I was shown a work breakdown structure which included a “software test” task but did not make any allowance for carrying out any ensuing remedial work and retesting. When I asked about this, I was told by the project manager that this omission seemed to be the only way to adjust the planned schedule to fit in with what the sponsor would probably find acceptable. I told the project manager that I could save still more time on their planned schedule.  They seemed very interested until I explained that, logically, they could save time and cost by eliminating the entire testing sequence. When they said that this was bad practice, I did get them to understand that my proposed “adjustment” to the schedule was no worse a practice than committing the project, as shown in their current plan, to testing and then taking no action whatever the results of the tests.

The remedy to this practice of mutual self-deception is based on two simple steps, one technical and one behavioural.


By Crispin (“Kik”) Piney

In the South of France

To read entire Letter to the Editor, click here

How to cite this work: Piney, C. (2022). On the Subject of Schedule and Budget Overruns, Letter to the Editor, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue VI, June. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/pmwj118-Jun2022-Piney-on-schedule-and-budget-overruns-Letter-to-Editor-2.pdf